Chris Ault will watch Super Bowl XLVII with a certain amount of pride. The former Nevada coach is the architect of the Pistol offense used successfully by the San Francisco 49ers and Washington Redskins this season.
Colin Kaepernick was Ault's quarterback at Nevada, and his experience in the scheme has allowed the 49ers to dominate teams with a multiple-dimension attack that keeps defenses guessing. Popular thinking suggests you need a highly mobile signal-caller to make the pistol work, but Ault shot that down, suggesting that more plodding passers like Eli Manning could find success leaning on those concepts.
"They could run the pistol formation," Ault said Tuesday on 'NFL AM.' "They don't need to run the read part of it. When we first put the pistol in, in 2005 and 2006 (at Nevada), that's all we ran. We ran the power, the gaps, the counters, the zones, the outside stuff. We did not run the read at that time. So, the pistol offense, the most important thing there, is you can run any offense you've been running. And this is how we created it, and then we advanced the pistol run game -- the read part of it -- two years later."
Ault stressed the benefits to a base run game. Images of Kaepernick and Robert Griffin III getting to the edge before turning upfield is limited to teams with those types of athletic players, but any NFL team hoping to create deception in the ground game has use for the pistol.
"When that back sits behind the quarterback, the backers do not have a clear view of what he's doing," Ault said. "And everybody's talking about the read-option, which is a big part of our offense, but you can run downhill power games, counters, gaps and all that from the pistol. And those counter steps and trap steps that backs take in this day and age -- sometimes those linebackers lose it. That's what we really enjoyed about it when we first put it in. The read didn't come in until two years later."
Ault acknowledged defenses might wise up to slowing down aspects of the pistol, but this isn't a gimmick scheme. Case in point: The Atlanta Falcons held Kaepernick to two carries for 21 yards in Sunday's NFC Championship Game, but the Falcons didn't slow down Frank Gore and the interior run game. Here's why the pistol was still successful in that respect:
"You know, I know we saw Kaep run for 181 yards against Green Bay. That certainly -- the read part of the game -- is great," Ault said. "What you saw last week is what I believe our pistol brings to the table. Kaep didn't run it. He read it and handed it off, because Atlanta was taking away Kaep on the outside. And those two plays I believe that Gore scored on, both of them were read-type plays. And the beauty of what we've done in the pistol -- and what I see the 49ers and the Redskins doing -- is it's not just the read play itself, it's also the play-action pass off of it."
There's hope yet for slow-footed passers everywhere.
Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.